Monday, October 24, 2011

Bud Selig – one of a kind

The 2011 World Series will end Wednesday or Thursday in St. Louis. The Fall Classic will end without Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig doing something NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell does at the Super Bowl, NBA Commissioner David Stern does (this year’s is in doubt) at the start of the NBA Finals, and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman does just before game one of the Stanley Cup Finals – hold a major press conference at their sport’s championship event. Selig holds a press conference and an interactive fan event during the All-Star break; both Stern and Bettman do the same thing and offer a season ending media opportunity during their All-Star events. The media savvy NFL makes Goodell available throughout the NFL season. Bud Selig did one major appearance during the World Series an interview with Bob Costas, in Costas’ capacity as a correspondent with the MLB Network. And unlike how the NFL, NBA and NHL work with the media, MLB did not make a transcript of Selig’s chat with Costas available to the media.

Allan “Bud" Selig, Jr. is the Commissioner of Major League Baseball, a role he has held officially since 1998, and held on an interim basis (as Chairman of the Major League Executive Council) before that, starting in 1992. Selig replaced Fay Vincent.

Selig, a native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, began his participation in Baseball as a majority shareholder of the Boston Braves in the early 1950s. After the Braves moved to Atlanta in 1965, he sold his stock in the team, and five years later, he purchased the bankrupt Seattle Pilots franchise and moved it to Milwaukee, renaming them the Brewers.

Under Selig's guidance, the Brewers reached the World Series in 1982, but failed to reach the postseason until they made it to the National League Championship series earlier this month. The Cardinals beat the Brewers in six games. After taking over as MLB Commissioner, he transferred ownership of the team to his daughter, Wendy Selig-Prieb, although the team was later sold.

In 2006, Selig announced that he plans to retire from his position at the end of his contract in 2009 and later decided to change that to the end of the 2012 season.

Accomplishments and Criticisms

Bud Selig has presided over a variety of changes in Major League Baseball since 1992. Many of these transitions have been credited for helping to increase the game's popularity, while others have drawn criticism. Among the events occurring under Selig's watch:

• 1994 - Players union strike and cancellation of World Series.
• 1995 - Realignment of divisions, and institution of wild card and divisional playoffs
• 1997 - Implementation of interleague play
• 2000 - Consolidation of the American and National Leagues under a single administrative office.
• 2001 - One-week postponement of games after terror attacks
• 2002 - Meets with Pete Rose regarding Rose's reinstatement efforts; Rose remains banned from the game and is not expected to be reinstated as long as Selig remains MLB commissioner
• 2002 - In Milwaukee, declares All-Star Game a 7-7 tie after 11 innings
• 2002 - MLB and players union reach a collective bargaining agreement, for the first time without a work stoppage
• 2003 - First year in which home-field advantage in the World Series is awarded to the team whose league wins the All-Star Game
• 2005 - Steroids scandal and subsequent changes in drug testing
• 2006 - Japan wins inaugural World Baseball Classic
• 2007 – the release of the Mitchell Report
• 2008 - Introduction of instant replay in the event of a disputed home run call
• By the end of the current collective bargaining agreement (expiring in December), baseball will have gone 16 years without a strike or a lockout, the longest period of labor peace since the inception of the collective bargaining relationship. The two sides are expected to sign a five-year CBA extension in the coming days or weeks.
• Revenues have increased more than five-fold, from $1.2 billion in 1992 to nearly $7 billion in 2010. (expect 2011 revenues to at least match 2010’s $7 billion)

On August 31, 2002, Selig engineered an historic labor agreement with the Major League Baseball Players Association that avoided a work stoppage and provided significant economic concessions to the clubs. Those concessions have brought on greater competitive balance among the clubs. For the first time in 30 years, the clubs and the Players’ Association were able to reach a labor agreement without either a strike or a lockout. The unprecedented era of labor peace continued as the clubs and players reached a new, five-year pact on October 24, 2006. The contract, which terminates in December 2011, is the longest labor contract in baseball history. By its end, baseball will have gone at least 16 years without a strike or lock-out, the longest period of labor peace since the inception of the collective bargaining relationship.

The significant changes to baseball's economic system have helped the sport achieve competitive balance, made evident by many developments: 15 different clubs earned the 16 postseason slots available in the 2006 and 2007 seasons; eight different clubs occupied the eight World Series berths from 2005-2008; and eight different clubs won the nine World Series from 2001-2009. In the most recent decade, Major League Baseball produced eight different World Series Champions, which exceeds the comparable figures of the other major American professional sports during that span, and 14 different Clubs earned the 20 available slots in the World Series in the 10 years, which is also unsurpassed among the results of the other leagues.

On January 13, 2005, Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players’ Association announced an historic agreement to expand its drug-testing program to include random, year-round testing, immediate discipline, and a broader list of banned substances. Although this new program was as strong as any in professional sports, it was further enhanced 10 months later. On November 15, 2005, the parties implemented an even tougher drug-testing program, resulting in a 50-game suspension of first-time offenders, a 100-game suspension for a second offense, and a lifetime ban for a third. The new agreement also banned the use of amphetamines, implementing a testing plan and a disciplinary policy for the use of those substances. MLB has the toughest drug-testing and disciplinary policy in American professional sports, and in July 2010, MLB became the first U.S. professional sports league to conduct blood testing for the detection of Human Growth Hormone (HGH) with the start of testing among Minor League players.

MLB has taken an aggressive, wide-ranging approach on the fronts of awareness, education and research in the fight against performance-enhancing substances. MLB continues to work closely with the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. A founding partner of the Taylor Hooton Foundation in 2005, MLB extended its commitment to the grassroots anti-steroid educational program through 2011. In 2008, MLB became a founding partner of the Partnership for Clean Competition (PCC), a landmark research collaboration designed to further curtail the use of banned and illegal substances in sport. The fellow founding partners were the United States Olympic Committee, the United States Anti-Doping Agency and the National Football League. The PCC combines the resources and expertise of leading sports entities to underwrite cutting-edge anti-doping research. Don Hooton, President of the Taylor Hooton Foundation, said in May 2010, "Major League Baseball has singularly dedicated more resources to supporting anti-steroid educational programs than any other entity in the United States, including the federal government."

The bad news – the cancellation of the 1994 World Series regardless as to how MLB spins the tale will forever be a blight on MLB and on Selig’s legacy. The good news, since 1994 MLB has enjoyed labor peace. And, in fairness, Selig has to receive his share of the credit for that labor peace.

Baseball has yet to fully accept that the sport experienced an era where its biggest stars allegedly (the Mitchell Report named 89 current and former MLB players) used performance enhancement drugs (PED). Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds (baseball’s home run king) all had Hall of Fame careers. They might never make it to Cooperstown. MLB needs to accept during a period when PED’s were readily available to athletes, baseball players used PED’s. Sosa, McGwire, Clemens and Bonds are Hall of Famers – baseball needs to ensure that happens.

Baseball, like every sport, is destined to being forced to accept an era where performance-enhancing drugs were a plight on the sport. As long as owners are willing to pay salaries based on performance athletes will attempt to abuse the system. You can test athletes as often as you’d like, but as soon as a chemist discovers another drug that can beat the latest drug test (building the best mouse trap) athletes will abuse the system. The system invites abuse, more systematic of an industry that has become one of the leading economic sectors today. Selig and the Lords of the Diamond have done their part to clean up the game, but they need to accept the era when there were no safeguards (drug testing) and move forward.

In 2009, the Commissioner established the "Special Committee for On-Field Matters" comprised of an accomplished group of baseball veterans - owners, general managers, field managers and others - that examines all on-field related issues. The Committee reviews all aspects of the game on the field, including scheduling, playoff formats, umpiring, pace of game, instant replay and any other issue that can improve the game.

Under Selig's leadership as Executive Council Chairman and Commissioner, new ballparks have opened in Arizona, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Colorado, Detroit, Houston, Milwaukee, Minnesota, New York (for both the Mets and the Yankees), Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis, Texas and Washington, D.C. Major League Baseball returned to the nation's capital in 2005 with the debut of the Washington Nationals, and 2008 ushered in a new era of baseball in Washington with the opening of Nationals Park. A new ballpark in Miami is slated to be ready for the 2012 season to serve as the home of the Marlins.

Economically MLB is generating in excess of $7 billion annually. Selig has to receive the Lion’s share of the credit for that taking place. Selig experienced what it was like to own a small market baseball team. He used what he learned while owning the Milwaukee Brewers to help create revenue sharing and created a luxury tax that allows the New York Yankees to spend whatever they want on their payroll but once they exceed a threshold pay a penalty to smaller market teams so they might be able to remain somewhat competitive.

And what will be the legacy of Bud Selig if, as expected, he retires at the end of the 2012 season? The Bud Selig before the historic 2002 labor agreement was a terrible commissioner. The Bud Selig since MLB and the MLB Players’ Association reached an agreement that saved the 2002 season (and MLB) might be the best commissioner MLB has ever had. Overall, Bud grew wiser as the years went on – even though for reasons only Bud understands he doesn’t like dealing with the media.

For Sports Business News, this is Howard Bloom. Sources cited and used in this Insider Report:

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